The Moon this Month
(All times are in Australian Eastern Daylight Time)
- New Moon: 04:34 am March 3
- First Quarter: 09:45 pm March
- Full Moon: 06:17 pm March 18
- Last quarter Moon: 04:37 pm March 25
On the 11th at 09:04 am AEDT, the Moon will be at its furthest point or apogee when 404,268km away from us. On March 24 at 10:37 am, it will be at perigee – the closest it comes to Earth this month– being a mere 369,760 km away from us.
A lovely picture opportunity is on the early morning of the 1st Mercury and Saturn begin the month together early in the dawn twilight in Capricorn accompanied by a thin waning crescent Moon. Again on March 29, Venus and Mars will join them in the pre-dawn sky.
Planets in March
Mercury begins the month 2.5° above Saturn in the eastern dawn sky; as a bonus, included in the view is the 27-day old slender waning crescent Moon, the trio fitting into a 5° circle. On the 3rd, Mercury passes just 0.7° to the right of Saturn and will appear noticeably brighter. On the 21stand 22nd, Mercury and Jupiter meet up just 1.5° apart; the pair will be close to the horizon at the time of civil dawn, and binoculars will assist. Still, you will need an excellent eastern viewpoint.
Venus spends the month in the eastern morning sky. It will be in Sagittarius before moving into Capricorn, then later to Aquarius and closing March again in Capricornus. As a matter of interest on the 8th, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Mercury all gather within the boundaries of Capricornus for one day, becoming the brightest objects in the faint constellation. Venus and Mars remain companions at 4° apart for most of March. On the 29th, Venus will be 2° from Saturn, with Mars above and a waning 26-day crescent Moon to the right. The planet’s greatest elongation of 47° west of the Sun Occurs on the 20th. When a planet is at its greatest elongation, it appears farthest from the Sun as viewed from Earth, so its apparition is also best at that point.
Earth reaches equinox at 02:32 am AEDT on Monday, March 21. This is one of the two times of the year when day and night are roughly equal in duration. It is the actual instant of time when the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the geometric centre of the Sun’s disk. This occurs twice each year, around March 20 and September 23. This is the exact time at which the centre of the visible Sun is directly above the equator.
Mars is visible in the early morning eastern sky in Sagittarius for the first week of March before moving into Capricorn with Venus. A pleasant view for unaided-eye observers occurs on the 29th when the Red Planet will be about 5° above Venus, Saturn and the waning 26-day old crescent Moon which will be to the right of the planets
Jupiter returns to the dawn sky after it reaches its solar conjunction on the 5th. Solar conjunctions generally occur when a planet or other Solar System object is on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. If you have a clear eastern horizon, you may be able to make out Jupiter and Mercury close together (1.5°) about half an hour before sunrise on the 21st. Jupiter is the brighter of the two planets. A pair of binoculars will help. Easier to see with the unaided eye is the slender waning crescent of the 28-day old Moon and Jupiter, 4° apart on the 31stIn either binoculars or a telescope, Jupiter’s Moons are always interesting. Jupiter is now high enough to follow its moon positions’ changes from night to night.
Saturn, Mercury and the Moon put on a show on the 1st in the early eastern dawn sky. On the 3rd, the planetary team of Saturn and Mercury will be just 0.7° apart, although low to the horizon at astronomical dawn. On the 29th, Saturn, Venus, Mars and the Moon gather for a pleasing early morning display
Uranus will be lost in the western evening twilight by the end of the month as it moves closer to the Sun and conjunction in May.
Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun on the 13th and reappears in the morning sky in April.